experience of the cheerful buoyant Ferrars temperament was no guide
to the morbid Kendal disposition, Gilbert lay on the grass limp and
doleful till the fall of the dew, when he betook himself to a sofa;
and in the morning turned up his eyes reproachfully at her instead of
eating his breakfast.
About eleven o'clock the Fairmead pony-carriage stopped at the door,
containing Mr. Ferrars, the Captain, Aunt Gertrude, and little
Willie. Albinia, her husband, and Lucy, were soon in the drawing-room
welcoming them; and Lucy fetched her little brother, who had
been vociferous for three days about Cousin Fred, the real soldier,
but now, struck with awe at the mighty personage, stood by his mamma,
profoundly silent, and staring. He was ungracious to his aunt, and
still more so to Willie, the latter of whom was despatched under
Lucy's charge to find Gilbert, but they came back unsuccessful. Nor
did Sophy make her appearance; she was reported to be reading to
grandmamma - Mrs. Meadows preferred to Miss Ferrars! there was more in
this than Albinia could make out, and she sat uneasily till she could
exchange a few words with Lucy. 'My dear, what is become of the
'I am sure I don't know what is the matter with them,' said Lucy.
'Gilbert is gone out - nobody knows where - and when I told Sophy who
was here, she said Captain Ferrars was an empty-headed coxcomb, and
she did not want to see him!'
'Oh! the geese!' murmured Albinia to herself, till the comical
suspicion crossed her mind that Gilbert was jealous, and that Sophy
was afraid of falling a victim to the redoubtable lady killer.
Luncheon-time produced Sophy, grave and silent, but no Gilbert, and
Mr. Kendal, receiving no satisfactory account of his absence, said,
'Very strange,' and looked annoyed.
Captain Ferrars seemed to have expected to see his bright little
partner of Thursday, for he inquired for her, and Willie imparted the
information that Fred had taken her for Sophy all the time! Fred
laughed, and owned it, but asked if she were not really the
governess? 'A governess,' said Albinia, 'but not ours,' and an
explanation followed, during which Sophy blushed violently, and held
up her head as if she had an iron bar in her neck.
'A pity,' said the Lancer, when he had heard who she was, and under
his moustache he murmured to Albinia, 'She is rather in Emily's
'Oh, Fred,' thought Albinia, 'after all, it may be lucky that you
aren't going to stay here!'
When Albinia was alone with her brother, she could not help saying,
'Maurice, you were right to scold me; I reproached you with thinking
life made up of predicaments. I think mine is made of blunders!'
'Ah! I saw you were harassed to-day,' said her brother kindly.
'Whenever one is happy, one does something wrong!'
'I guess - '
'You are generous not to say you warned me months ago. Mind, it is
no fault of hers, she is behaving beautifully; but oh! the absurdity,
and the worst of it is, I have promised not to tell Edmund.'
'Then don't tell me. You have a judgment quite good enough for use.'
'No, I have not. I have only sense, and that only serves me for what
other people ought to do.'
'Then ask Albinia what Mrs. Kendal ought to do.'
Gilbert came in soon after their departure, with an odd, dishevelled,
abstracted look, and muttering something inaudible about not knowing
the time. His depression absolutely courted notice, but as a slight
cough would at any time reduce him to despair, he obtained no
particular observation, except from Sophy, who made much of him,
flushed at Genevieve's name, and looked reproachful, that it was
evident that she was his confidante. Several times did Albinia try
to lead her to enter on the subject, but she set up her screen of
silence. It was disappointing, for Albinia had believed better
things of her sense, and hardly made allowance for the different
aspect of the love-sorrows of seventeen, viewed from fifteen or
twenty-six - vexatious, too, to be treated with dry reserve, and
probably viewed as a rock in the course of true love; and provoking
to see perpetual tete-a-tetes that could hardly fail to fill Sophy's
romantic head with folly.
At the end of another week, Albinia received the following note: -
'Dear and most kind Madame,
'I would not trouble you again, but this is the third within four days. I
returned the two former ones to himself, but he continues to write. May I
ask your permission to speak to my relatives, for I feel that I ought to
hide this no longer from them, and that we must take some measures for
ending it. He does me the honour to wait near the house, and I never dare
go out, since - for I will confess all to you, madame - he met me by the
river on Monday. I am beginning to fear that his assiduities have been
observed, and I should be much obliged if you would tell me how to act.
Your kind perseverance in your goodness towards me is my greatest comfort,
and I hope that you will still continue it, for indeed it is most
unwillingly that I am a cause of perplexity and vexation to you.
Entreating your pardon,
'Your most faithful and obliged servant,
Genevieve Celeste Durant.'
What was to be done? That broken pledge overpowered Albinia with a
personal sense of shame, and though it set her free to tell all to
her husband, she shrank from provoking his stern displeasure towards
his son, and feared he might involve Genevieve in his anger. She
dashed off a note to her poor little friend, telling her to do as she
thought fit by her aunt and grandmother, and then sought another
interview with the reluctant Gilbert, to whom she returned the
letter, saying, 'Oh, Gilbert, at least I thought you would keep your
'I think,' he said, angrily, trying for dignity, though bewrayed by
his restless eyes and hands - 'I think it is too much to accuse me
of - of - when I never said - What word did I ever give?'
'You promised never to persecute her again.'
'There may be two opinions as to what persecution means,' said
'I little thought of subterfuges. I trusted you.'
'Mrs. Kendal! hear me,' he passionately cried. 'You knew not the
misery you imposed. To live so near, and not a word, not a look! I
bore it as long as I could; but when Sophy would not so much as take
one message, human nature could not endure.'
'Well, if you cannot restrain yourself like a rational creature, some
means must be taken to free Miss Durant from a pursuit so injurious
and disagreeable to her.'
'Ay,' he cried, 'you have filled her with your own prejudices, and
inspired her with such a dread of the hateful fences of society, that
she does not dare to confess - '
'For shame, Gilbert, you are accusing her of acting a part.'
'No!' he exclaimed, 'all I say is, that she has been so thrust down
and forced back, that she cannot venture to avow her feelings even to
'Oh!' said Albinia, 'you conceited person!'
'Well!' cried the boy, so much nettled by her sarcasm that he did not
know what he said, 'I think - considering - considering our situations,
I might be worth her consideration!'
'Who put that in your head?' asked Albinia. 'You are too much a
gentleman for it to have come there of its own accord.'
He blushed excessively, and retracted. 'No, no! I did not mean
that! No, I only mean I have no fair play - she will not even think.
Oh! if I had but been born in the same station of life!'
Gilbert making entrechats with a little fiddle! It had nearly
overthrown her gravity, and she made no direct answer, only saying,
'Well, Gilbert, these talks are useless. I only thought it right to
give you notice that you have released me from my engagement not to
make your father aware of your folly.'
He went into an agony of entreaties, and proffers of promises, but no
more treaties of secrecy could he obtain, she would only say that she
should not speak immediately, she should wait and see how things
turned out. By which she meant, how soon it might be hoped that he
would be safe in the Calcutta bank, where she heartily wished him.
She sought a conference with Genevieve, and took her out walking in
the meadows, for the poor child really needed change and exercise,
the fear of Gilbert had made her imprison herself within the little
garden, till she looked sallow and worn. She said that her
grandmother and aunt had decided that she should go in a couple of
days to the Convent at Hadminster, to remain there till Mr. Gilbert
went to India - the superior was an old friend of her aunt, and
Genevieve had often been there, and knew all the nuns.
Albinia was startled by this project. 'My dear, I had much rather
send you to stay at my brother's, or - anywhere. Are you sure you are
not running into temptation?'
'Not of that kind,' said Genevieve. 'The priest, Mr. O'Hara, is a
good-natured old gentleman, not in the least disposed to trouble
himself about my conversion.'
'And the sisters?'
'Good old ladies, they have always been very kind to me, and petted
me exceedingly when I was a little child, but for the rest - ' still
seeing Albinia's anxious look - 'Oh! they would not think of it; I
don't believe they could argue; they are not like the new-fashioned
Roman Catholics of whom you are thinking, madame.'
'And are there no enthusiastic young novices?'
'I should think no one would ever be a novice there,' said Genevieve.
'You seem to be bent on destroying all the romance of convents,
'I never thought of anything romantic connected with the reverend
mothers,' rejoined Genevieve, 'and yet when I recollect how they came
to Hadminster, I think you will be interested. You know the family
at Hadminster Hall in the last century were Roman Catholics, and a
daughter had professed at a convent in France. At the time of the
revolution, her brother, the esquire, wrote to offer her an asylum at
his house. The day of her arrival was fixed - behold! a stage-coach
draws up to the door - black veils inside - black veils clustered on
the roof - a black veil beside the coachman, on the box - eighteen nuns
alight, and the poor old infirm abbess is lifted out. They had not
even figured to themselves that the invitation could be to one
without the whole sisterhood!'
'And what did the esquire do with the good ladies?'
'He took them as a gift from Providence, he raised a subscription
among his friends, and they were lodged in the house at Hadminster,
where something like a sisterhood had striven to exist ever since the
days of James II.'
'Are any of these sisters living still?'
'Only poor old Mother Therese, who was a little pensionnaire when
they came, and now is blind, and never quits her bed. There are only
seven sisters at present, and none of them are less than five-and-forty.'
'And what shall you do there, Genevieve?'
'If they have any pupils from the town, perhaps I may help to teach
them French. And I shall have plenty of time for my music. Oh!
madame, would you lend me a little of your music to copy?'
'With all my heart. Any books?'
'Oh! that would be the greatest kindness of all! And if it were not
presuming too much, if madame would let me take the pattern of that
beautiful point lace that she sometimes wears in the evening, then I
should make myself welcome!'
'And put out your eyes, my dear! But you may turn out my whole
lace-drawer if you think anything there will be a pleasure to the old
'Ah! you do not guess the pleasure, madame. Needlework and
embroidery is their excitement and delight. They will ask me closely
about all I have seen and done for months past, and the history of
the day at Fairmead will be a fete in itself.'
'Well! my dear, it is very right of you; and I do feel very thankful
to you for treating the matter thus. Pray tell your grandmamma and
aunt to pardon the sad revolution we have made in their comfort, and
that I hope it will soon be over!'
Genevieve took no leave. Albinia sent her a goodly parcel of books
and work-patterns, and she returned an affectionate note; but did not
attempt to see Lucy and Sophy.
The next Indian mail brought the expected letter, giving an exact
account of the acquirements and habits that would be required of
Gilbert, with a promise of a home where he would be treated as a son,
and of admission to the firm after due probation. The letter was so
sensible and affectionate, that Mr. Kendal congratulated his son upon
such an advantageous outset in life.
Gilbert made slight reply, but the next morning Sophy sought Albinia
out, and with some hesitation began to tell her that Gilbert was very
anxious that she would intercede with papa not to send him to
'You now, Sophy!' cried Albinia. 'You who used to think nothing
equal to India!'
'I wish it were I,' said Sophy, 'but you know - '
'Well,' said Albinia, coldly.
Sophy was too shy to begin on that tack, and dashed off on another.
'Oh, mamma, he is so wretched. He can't bear to thwart papa, but he
says it would break his heart to go so far away, and that he knows it
would kill him to be confined to a desk in that climate.'
'You know papa thinks that nothing would confirm his health so much
as a few years without an English winter.'
'One's own instinct - ' began Sophy; then breaking off, she added,
'Mamma, you never were for the bank.'
'I used not to see the expediency, and I did not like the parting;
but now I understand your father's wishes, and the sort of allegiance
he feels towards India, so that Gilbert's reluctance will be a great
mortification to him.'
'So it will,' said Sophy, mournfully, 'I am sure it is to me. I
always looked forward to Gilbert's going to Talloon, and seeing the
dear old bearer, and taking all my presents there, but you see, of
course, mamma, he cannot bear to go - '
'Sophy, dear,' said Albinia, 'you have been thinking me a very
hard-hearted woman this last month. I have been longing to have it out.'
'Not hard-hearted,' said Sophy, looking down, 'only I had always
thought you different from other people.'
'And you considered that I was worldly, and not romantic enough. Is
that it, Sophy?'
'I thought you knew how to value her for herself, so good and so
admirable - a lady in everything - with such perfect manners. I
thought you would have been pleased and proud that Gilbert's choice
was so much nobler than beauty, or rank, or fashion could make it,'
said Sophy, growing enthusiastic as she went on.
'Well, my dear, perhaps I am.'
'But, mamma, you have done all you could to separate them: you have
shut Genevieve up in a convent, and you want to banish him.'
'It sounds very grand, and worthy of a cruel step-dame,' said
Albinia; 'but, my dear, though I do think Genevieve in herself an
admirable creature, worthy of any one's love, what am I to think of
the way Gilbert has taken to show his admiration?'
'And is it not very hard,' cried Sophy, 'that even you, who own all
her excellences, should turn against him, and give in to all this
miserable conventionality, that wants riches and station, and
trumpery worldly things, and crushes down true love in two young
'Sophy dear, I am afraid the love is not proved to be true in the one
heart, and I am sure there is none in the other!'
'Mamma! 'Tis her self-command - '
'Nonsense! His attentions are nothing but distress to her! Sensible
grown-up young women are not apt to be flattered by importunity from
silly boys. Has he told you otherwise?'
'He thinks - he hopes, at least - and I am sure - it is all stifled by
her sense of duty, and fear of offending you, or appearing
'All delusion!' said Albinia; 'there's not a spark of consciousness
about her! I see you don't like to believe it, but it is my great
comfort. Think how she would suffer if she did love him! Nay,
think, before you are angry with me for not promoting it, how it
would bring them into trouble and disgrace with all the world, even
if your father consented. Have you once thought how it would appear
'You can persuade papa to anything !'
'Sophy! you ought to know your father better than to say that!' cried
Albinia, as if it had been disrespect to him.
'Then you think he would never allow it! You really think that such
a creature as Genevieve, as perfect a lady as ever existed, must
always be a victim to these hateful rules about station.'
'No,' said Albinia, 'certainly not; but if she were in the very same
rank, if all else were suitable, Gilbert's age would make the pursuit
'Only three years younger,' sighed Sophy. 'But if they were the same
age? Do you mean that no one ever ought to marry, if they love ever
so much, where the station is different?'
'No, but that they must not do so lightly, but try the love first to
see whether it be worth the sacrifice. If an attachment last through
many years of adverse circumstances, I think the happiness of the
people has been shown to depend on each other, but I don't think it
safe to disregard disparities till there has been some test that the
love is the right stuff, or else they may produce ill-temper,
regrets, and unhappiness, all the rest of their lives.'
'If Gilbert went on for years, mamma?'
'I did not say that, Sophy.'
'Suppose,' continued the eager girl, 'he went out to Calcutta, and
worked these five years, and was made a partner. Then he would be
two-and-twenty, nobody could call him too young, and he would come
home, and ask papa's consent, and you - '
'I _should_ call that constancy,' said Albinia.
'And he would take her out to Calcutta, and have no Drurys and
Osborns to bother her! Oh! It would be beautiful! I would watch
over her while he was gone! I'll go and tell him!'
'Stop, Sophy, not from me - that would never do. I don't think papa
would think twenty-two such a great age - '
'But he would have loved her five years!' said Sophy. 'And you said
yourself that would be constancy!'
'True, but, Sophy, I have known a youth who sailed broken-hearted,
and met a lady "just in the style" of the former one, on board the
steamer - '
Sophy made a gesture of impatient disdain, and repeated, 'Do you
allow me to tell Gilbert that this is the way?'
'Not from me. I hold out no hope. I don't believe Genevieve cares
for him, and I don't know whether his father would consent - ' but
seeing Sophy's look of disappointment, 'I see no harm in your
suggesting it, for it is his only chance with either of them, and
would be the proof that his affection was good for something.'
'And you think her worth it?'
'I think her worth anything in the world - the more for her behaviour
in this matter. I only doubt if Gilbert have any conception how much
she is worth.'
Away went Sophy in a glow that made her almost handsome, while
Albinia, as usual, wondered at her own imprudence.
At luncheon Sophy avoided her eye, and looked crestfallen, and when
afterwards she gave a mute inquiring address, shook her head
impatiently. It was plain that she had failed, and was too much
pained and shamed by his poorness of spirit to be able as yet to
speak of it.
Next came Gilbert, who pursued Albinia to the morning-room to entreat
her interference in his behalf, appealing piteously to her kindness;
but she was obdurate. If any remonstrance were offered to his
father, it must be by himself.
Gilbert fell into a state of misery, threw himself about upon the
chairs, and muttered in the fretfulness of childish despair something
about its being very hard, when he was owner of half the town, to be
sent into exile - it was like jealousy of his growing up and being
'Take care, Gilbert!' said Albinia, with a flash of her eye that he
felt to his backbone.
'I don't mean it,' cried Gilbert, springing towards her in
supplication. 'I've heard it said, that's all, and was as angry as
you, but when a fellow is beside himself with misery at being driven
away from all he loves - not a friend to help him - how can he keep
from thinking all sorts of things?'
'I wonder what people dare to say it!' cried Albinia wrathfully; but
he did not heed, he was picturing his own future misfortunes - toil -
climate - fevers - choleras - Thugs - coups de soleil - genuine dread and
repugnance working him up to positive agony.
'Gilbert,' said Albinia, 'this is trumpery self-torture! You know
this is a mere farrago that you have conjured up. Your father would
neither thrust you into danger, nor compel you to do anything to
which you had a reasonable aversion. Go and be a man about it in one
way or the other! Either accept or refuse, but don't make these
childish lamentations. They are cowardly! I should be ashamed of
little Maurice if he behaved so!'
'And you will not speak a word for me!'
'No! Speak for yourself!' and she left the room.
Days passed on, till she began to think that, after all, Gilbert
preferred Calcutta, cholera, Thugs, and all, to facing his father;
but at last, he must have taken heart from his extremity, for Mr.
Kendal said, with less vexation than she had anticipated, 'So our
plans are overthrown. Gilbert tells me he has an invincible dislike
to Calcutta. Had you any such idea?'
'Not till your cousin's letter arrived. What did you say to him?'
'He was so much afraid of vexing me that I was obliged to encourage
him to speak freely, and I found that he had always had a strong
distaste to and dread of India. I told him I wished he had made me
aware of it sooner, and desired to know what profession he really
preferred. He spoke of Oxford and the Bar, and so I suppose it must
be. I do not wonder that he wishes to follow his Traversham friends,
and as they are a good set, I hope there may not be much temptation.
I see you are not satisfied, Albinia, yet your wishes were one of my
'Thank you - once I should,' said Albinia; 'but, Edmund, I see how
wrong it was to have concealed anything from you;' and thereupon she
informed him of Gilbert's passion for Genevieve Durant, which
astonished him greatly, though he took it far less seriously than she
had expected, and was not displeased at having been kept in ignorance
and spared the trouble of taking notice of it, and thus giving it
'It will pass off,' he said. 'She has too much sense and principle
to encourage him, and if you can get her out of Bayford for a few
years he will be glad to have it forgotten.'
'Poor Genevieve! She must break up her grandmother's home after
'It will be a great advantage to her. You used to say that it would
be most desirable for her to see more of the world. Away from this
place she might marry well.'
'Any one's son but yours,' said Albinia, smiling.
'The connexion would be worse here than anywhere else; but I was not
thinking of any one in our rank of life. There are many superior men
in trade with whom she might be very happy.'
'Poor child!' sighed Albinia. 'I cannot feel that it is fair that
she should be banished for Gilbert's faults; and I am sorry for the
school; you cannot think how much the tone was improving.'
'If it could be done without hurting her feelings, I should gladly
give her a year at some superior finishing school, which might either
qualify her for a governess, or enable her to make this one more
'Oh! thank you!' cried Albinia; 'yet I doubt. However, her services
would be quite equivalent in any school to the lessons she wants.
I'll write to Mrs. Elwood - ' and she was absorbed in the register-office
in her brain, when Mr. Kendal continued -
'This is quite unexpected. I could not have supposed the boy so
foolish! However, if you please, I will speak to him, tell him that
I was unaware of his folly, and insist on his giving it up.'
'I should be very glad if you would.'
Gilbert was called, and the result was more satisfactory than Albinia
thought that Genevieve deserved. His frenzy had tended to wear
itself out, and he had been so dreadfully alarmed about India and his
father, that in his relief, gratitude, and fear of being sent out, he
was ready to promise anything. Before his father he could go into no
rhapsodies, and could only be miserably confused.
'Personally,' said Mr. Kendal, 'it is creditable that you should be
attracted by such estimable qualities, but these are not the sole
consideration. Equality of station is almost as great a requisite as
these for producing comfort or respectability, and nothing but your
youth and ignorance could excuse your besetting any young woman with